PTU Instructor & Getting Hitched
As my PolMil attachment ends, I’m selected to join to join PTU as an instructor. Based at Fanling, a member of the staff, I’m responsible for running platoons through their tactical training. But before I could start, I needed to complete the instructor's course. Learning the theory of teaching, how to put a lesson plan together and the use of visual aids. I loved it.
Another significant change was coming my way. I settled into a steady relationship with my future wife. As a single man, with an apartment in the New World Centre on the Kowloon waterfront, I’d had a hectic social life. Ok, that’s an understatement. If not working on a Friday or Saturday evening, I’d be hitting the discos and bars, doing what all young men do.
Dinner was usually taken in the Waltzing Matilda Pub. The manageress, Grace, mothered all the young expat cops. By 9 pm we’d start a crawl around the bars. Rick’s Cafe was the common endpoint. Rick’s, themed after the movie Casablanca, was in a basement and had a small dance floor. In the early 1980s, it was a police hang-out.
My future wife and I first met on a blind date. That first encounter did not go well. My mate Tom called me with a plea that he needed a wingman. He’d managed to fix a date with a Cathay Pacific hostess. The trouble was she would not come alone, insisting on bringing a girlfriend. This was not unusual. Thus, I'm called in to balance the equation. The deal was we’d meet the girls that evening in the Faces Disco at the New World Hotel.
I arrived late, plus tired and emotional. My day had not gone well as I’d messed up a drugs raid. The next day I had some explaining to do to my boss. In an inspired move, my sergeant and I decided to drown our sorrows. We’d started drinking a lunch-time. By 8 pm, I was well on the way.
My recollection of events is hazy. But with the benefit of my wife’s unfailing memory, I can report that I made a complete arse of myself. I swore, I told inappropriate stories; I proved as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit.
I soon sensed my presence was no longer needed. I’d reinforced the view that expat cops are big-mouthed bores, with the manners of a neanderthal. Tom was facing up to defeat. He cut his losses by joining me in some serious drinking. Meanwhile, the ladies sat in sullen silence. I was soon out of there, leaving Tom to deal with the aftermath.
Our next contact was a chance encounter on the street. Patrolling along Peking Road, doing my PTU hard-man routine with thumbs resting on my gun belt. Most people avoid eye contact. So I'm surprised when I sensed someone was eye-balling me from across the road.
On the opposite side, Anne and her friend engage in an animated discussion. "Is that the bloke they met in the disco?" I strolled across to say hi. That sent them off pacing down the road in embarrassment and giggling as the entire street looked on.
Sometime later I met up with Anne at a party, and we got chatting. At first, we were casual friends. That changed over time. On my return from leave in late 1983, we began seeing a lot of each other, and one thing led to another.
It has to be said that she brought some order to my otherwise chaotic domestic scene. For the first time in years, I was eating regular meals. In mid-1984 I decided to ask her to marry me. That evening we were going to a party near Tai Po. Before setting off, I popped the question.
She looked a little baffled; somewhat unsettled. I did not get a reply. Now, I'm taken aback by this. I’d plucked up the courage to ask, with the silence baffling me. I had no fallback plan. We set off for the party mute.
After a few drinks there, I decided to bail out. Troubled at not getting a reply, with my mood going downhill with each sip I knocked back.
Despite her protests, I boarded my Honda 750. She was riding pillion. By now the drinks were kicking in. I opened the throttle on the bike, cranking the speed up to 90 mph plus as we drove south along Tai Po Road. I flung the motorcycle into the bends.
Suddenly, I had a bus in front of me heading in the opposite direction. The bike shot through on the inside of the bus, as the passengers looked on in horror. She was screaming at me to stop. How we missed the bus, I don’t know. Indeed, I was not in control of the situation.
After that, we did not speak for a few days. Maybe she rang me, or I rang her. No matter, I ended up apologising, and not for the last time.
Finally, despite my attempt to kill her, Anne surrendered to my charms. We committed to making things permanent. Before that could happen, we had to let our respective families know. This was going to be interesting.
Anne's grandparents had brought her up. She’d had a tough time following the early death of both her parents. I had already met the grandparents on a couple of occasions, although we’d kept thing low key in front of them. Anne’s Aunt acted as a sort of go-between, to ease them into the idea that a foreign devil was going to marry into the family. Not only a foreign devil but a police officer as well.
A dinners arranged. Once the announcement came, Anne’s grandmother grabbed me into the kitchen of their tiny flat. There was a tension in the air.
“Do you have a wife in the UK?”
“No, of course not.”
“Do you have children in the UK?” She wasn't going to let me get off easy.
At first, I took it on the chin. But as she persisted my cool act began to slip. I grew somewhat annoyed at the aspersions in the questions. Soon Anne soon came to my rescue.
I'm shepherded out of the kitchen to face the rest of the family, waiting in the living room. I was assured Grandma was just seeking to protect Anne. Which is understandable given the reputation of cops during the era she grew up in.
Informing the UK end of the family was simple. My parents expressed delight, although they’d never met Anne. My Granny had a reaction that caused me a wry smile.
“Is she a Catholic?”
“No, Gran. She’s Buddhist or something” To be honest, I did not know.
“That’s fine” came the reply.
So that was that. We are getting married and set a date for December 1984. The logistics of this were going to prove daunting. Two families to cover, some 6000 miles apart. Each had expectations as regards what needed to be done.
To cut a long story short, we opted for a traditional tea ceremony in Hong Kong. This involved the paying of respect to Anne’s family and the handing over of lucky money.
Next was a flight to the UK for a formal marriage ceremony at the Registrars Office. It was then back to Hong Kong for a cocktail reception for family and friends. It felt like getting married three times.
The day of the tea ceremony went off with relative ease. I fulfilled my obligations with good grace to be immediately rewarded with a wife and lucky money. I soon learnt that in a Chinese family money circulates all the time. Landing in your lap at certain festivals and in times of need.
With our UK wedding fixed for 22nd December 1984, Anne and I set off westward. We arrived at a cold, frosty Heathrow, taking a train north. This was Anne’s first trip to the UK. The wait at Doncaster Station, on a cold December morning, did not make a good impression. Things were about to get worse.
“Who are those guys” Anne pointed along the platform to a group wrapped in duffle coats and shabby parkers.
Anne looked at me perplexed. A long silence. Then.
“Trainspotters? What do they do?”
“They write down the serial number of trains in their books. It’s a hobby”A more extended silence. I could see my explanation was causing some puzzlement.
Dear Reader, if you have a rational explanation for trainspotters, please send me an email. To date, I’ve not been able to explain to Anne their actions. That morning, in Doncaster, she decided the English are completely bonkers.
My Mum had organised the UK end of the wedding, so other than turn up, Anne and I had little in the way of worry. The word had gone out to my extended family. People come from Scotland and across England for the celebration. This was going to be another enlightening experience for Anne.
Come the wedding day, the weather was not kind to us. A cold, damp morning greeted us, with intermittent rain coming in sideways. The wind gusted across the River Humber and through Hull town centre. But, the cold and the wet could not detract from the fact that Anne looked stunning in her wedding dress.
As my family and relatives gathered at the Hull Registrars office, I began to feel a little nervous. On reflection, Anne had more reason to feel the pressure of the moment. The Registrar started his delivery in a broad Hull accent. I managed my lines, then it came to Anne’s turn.
Now, let me be clear, Anne speaks excellent English, with plummy tones. In the North of England, it's considered ‘posh'. What I’d not factored into the equation was her ability to understand the Hull accent. As a consequence the all-important line “ ... I take as my lawful husband” came out as “ ...I take as my awful husband.”
Anne immediately realised her error with a giggle. Trying to hide this, she bent forward, bringing her hands to her face. To my family behind it looked like she was crying and was about to bale out. I started laughing with her. My Mum was now ashen-faced, fearful her new daughter-in-law was about to do a runner.
The Registrar soon had us back on track. I could hear the sigh of relief from behind us. We're married. Next stop, a local hotel for lunch and a few speeches.
The main event was set for that night, with a disco in a local hall. This was to prove another eye-opener for Anne. My relatives, some in full highland gear, cavorted and whirled around the dance floor. Demented loons. Anne, in a stunning Cheung Sam, looked on. She was serene and composed in comparison.
With the honours done in the UK, we flew back to Hong Kong. We soon settled down to a domestic routine. Government rules then kicked in. I must give up our apartment for a married couples quarter.
Broadcast Drive at the northern end of Kowloon, with Lion Rock as its backdrop, was our new home. The approach to Kai Tak Airport runway 13 was aimed at our balcony. Planes would perform the 45-degree turn to avoid entering the living room.